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This is the band's second official release, being their sole EP to date, and I will admit it isn't my favorite material by the duo. As mentioned in my review of The Codex Necro, that album was a landmark record of extremity, and this EP comes off as leftovers of that session except without the fire. At this point in 2003, the band had birthed a few demos and their debut LP which had popped the bubble of this unique brand of metal and spread it through the underground. This is a good collection of songs for sure, but 2 full years after Codex, the music ended up being an extension of the same sound, which is the only time Anaal Nathrakh had 2 consecutive releases essentially doing the same thing.
The production is cleaner than Codex, with less distortion and more breathing room within the songs. As with every Anaal Nathrakh album, Mick wonderfully handles all guitars and drum programming, production, artwork and the whole lot, again doing an above average job. The riffs and songs are not as memorable for me as something like When Humanity is Cancer, but they make up for it with raw aggression. Dave's vocals sound even better and somehow more hateful than before, it's just nihilism and misanthropy defined. The two biggest highlights for me are revisiting Never Fucking Again and hearing just the faintest hints at what would become Domine Non Es Dignus, and the title track which features Dave's first use of his now signature operatic vocals to my knowledge, which come in at the end of the album as if to foreshadow the future. It's very interesting to start at the beginning with Cataclysmic Nihilism channeling Codex and ending with When Fire Rains...that could almost be a Domine song, incredibly cool transition.
It might sound like I'm knocking this EP, but it's just become so customary of the band to switch it up album to album that any stagnation is a bit surprising. They did add quite a bit of hatred to the sound though, contrasting Codex's more cold and distorted black metal themes. Anaal Nathrakh has hated all of humanity since the gestation period, but the sheer level of rage here is impressive, lending itself more to their grind genes. Being a 6 song EP, and one so closely similar to the previous LP at that, I'm going to keep this review short and like every Nathrakh album, I'm going to say fucking buy it. Especially if you are particularly fond of The Codex Necro, this is the last time you will hear that style from the band. Favorite track is Never Fucking Again
My relationship with this band is a complicated one. This record, together with their debut, made an enormous impression on me when I first heard them on release, and I still truly cherish them. However, the band very quickly started to lose their essence, at a rate which was at least consistent. I am happy to judge the last four albums as plain shit, each with a stronger odour. Domine Non Es Dignus, Eschaton and Hell Is Empty... are frustrating, as I know they are not good albums, but there is just enough merit that I am unable to convince myself that they are entirely bad either. However, When Fire Rains Down... also frustrates me, since I like it so much, and I can't reconcile this appreciation with what the band now seem to be. My strong dislike for the band as they are now has made me question the value of this record. It is a relief to press play, hear its opening seconds,and have that question disappear.
Really, I think it makes more sense to offer an almost "philosophical" analysis of When Fire Rains Down...To deconstruct this album, I must first deconstruct a punch. In the first instance, we have a hand. Its fingers make it capable of many sophisticated operations. However, in a certain configuration, the fingers allow the hand to perform one very particular action; a punch. The fingers come together to achieve something beyond their summation; to express a primal, instinctive voice which goes beyond intellect, without negating it. The punch is achieved when this atavism exerts its influence on these normally civil servants. The fist then accelerates along a linear path, physically manifesting this will to power. The punch is necessarily focused, robust and intuitive. As is this record.
The opening song, Cataclysmic Nihilism is an extremely aggressive and powerful piece of music. Like a punch, it is at once forceful, fast, and single-minded. All musical elements combine, as do the fingers in the fist, to form one instrument; a piece of pure musical expression. I am so thankful that each track on the CD is also such an expression. The album's riffs, while all (and I mean ALL) excellent on their own, commit to a higher purpose. Their is an organic flow in the songs which surpasses even that of The Codex Necro. Riff patterns often evolve as the songs progress, in stark contrast to the episodic (emphasis on the "piss") character of modern Anaal Nathrakh, where most riffs beg to be noticed, forgoing consideration for the whole (not to mention the fact that nowadays Anaal Nathrakh riffs are just plain shit out of context as well). The highly dynamic nature of the songwriting renders track analysis relatively pointless. However, although this is not an album of "moments", I simply love Never Fucking Again in particular, for its incredibly nauseating lurching musicality and legitimate ferocity. Its animosity is, quite simply, incredible. Even better, this track is a microcosm of the whole disc; even though the pace and rhythm occasionally change, the forward-facing direction and sense of sheer fury never, ever do.
As mentioned above, every instrument (guitar, bass, programmed drums and vocals) work together to form an extremely coherent and potent musical weapon. This is a musical compound, not merely a solution. Instruments are chemically bound to one another. The production can perhaps be seen as the catalyst which drives the reaction making this compound. Anaal Nathrakh would go on to attempt to "evolve" their sound by any means necessary, a tactic which included filling the sound space as much as possible. But remember that punch? The punch makes it its business to effect a relatively small area. Force equals mass times acceleration, and it is this solid fist, coupled with the impetus of the songwriting which generates this force. In this way, When Fire Rains Down... occupies a lot of mid. There is bass, and there is treble; just enough for the record to not sound poorly produced. The guitars often play these fantastically shrill chord progressions, but the shrillness is trying to burst through the mid, into treble, but the production, in a stroke of genius, doesn't allow it to. This imbues those riffs, which constitute the majority of the recording, with a true sense of urgency and desperation; a feeling so hard to achieve, and all the more valuable for it. Whether intentional or not, this effect gives When Fire Rains Down... an excellent sense of identity, without being a look-at-me tactic (such as the fucking horrible singing the band now uses, which reminds me of an elderly woman in a jogging suit out walking with her pet chihuahua in an attempt to get attention). The band were to reprise this particular sound to a degree with Eschaton (which still boasts wonderfully abrasive verses), but by that point the song-writing had started to suffer, and those clean vocals had become entrenched.
The songs generally are built around dense tremolo chord progressions with lightning-quick programming. Kenney's programming here is it its best. The blur of blast-beats (I think here generally faster than anywhere else in their discography) are full of terrific accents and fills which are often almost imperceptible in this blur, and are again yet another element not vying for attention but driven by an overall purpose. Speaking of things vying for attention, on paper, the appearances of Aborym members sound dubious, since focus is so often lost when bands call on others to take part. I am very rarely fond of guest appearances, but the inclusion of Attila Csihar and Set Teitan are ludicrously well-conceived. Their contributions imbue their respective songs with hints of their own character, without even coming close to usurping them. Their songs are syntheses and not showcases.
Although I was, above, very critical of V.I.T.R.I.O.L's singing on later outings, its inclusion on this album's title track is faultless. Its delivery is distinct from the awful style he would espouse on the following CD, and afterwards. The passages where he repeats the refrain "when fire rains down from the sky", followed by the corresponding "mankind will reap as it has sown" still make my hairs stand on end. It actually sounds like the voice of atavism. This is the culmination of the album, and is one of the many reasons why I do not consider this an EP in the slightest. The fist has opened back up into a hand, giving spiritual expression to mirror antecedent physical onslaught. The concurrent, extremely simple four note guitar progression underscores a real sense of finality which makes this listener feel they have truly experienced something great.
Despite only being one album into their career, Anaal Nathrakh were fast on their way to becoming the rulers of chaotic extreme metal. Their debut offering, The Codex Necro, featured such a unique and impressive brand of black metal that it would be hard to top what they created with it. However, in between that excellent first album and their sound-shifting second album, the band decided to release an EP in the form of When Fire Rains Down From the Sky, Mankind Will Reap as it Has Sown. This record just about perfectly fits the term "transitional mini-album" that Dani Filth once used to describe his own band Cradle of Filth's Bitter Suites to Succubi, as this EP bridges the stylistic gap between the torturous black metal of The Codex Necro and the sign of future offerings Domine Non Es Dignus, while still maintaining its own identity within the band's discography.
Right off the bat the EP smacks you on the head with the blasting madness that is "Cataclysmic Nihilism", and this energy does not let up for one solitary second throughout the near 27 minutes that the disc plays for, remaining present during even slightly more subdued tracks such as "Atavism". One will very quickly notice that while the EP does remain musically similar to The Codex Necro, it is quite a bit faster than the majority of that record. Whereas that album's overall tone one could equate to being locked in a dirt floored cellar deep in the pits of Hell, the sound of When Fire Rains... is more akin to finally breaking the shackles from the wall and stepping outside the door of the dungeon to first witness that fabled land south of heaven in all its maniacal glory, as the band were starting to broaden their hatred of humankind to the broader spectrum of everybody rather than focusing on just the individual. The music is still primarily black metal, but the genre mixing that was merely hinted at on The Codex Necro and fully realized on later releases is definitely more at work here. The EP has a bit of an industrial feel to it, reminding me of Samael's Above despite being six years that album's senior. I would not be surprised if Vorph and Xy took some inspiration for that album from this one, especially considering they were intentionally trying to make the most extreme record they possibly could with it. The industrial feel is enhanced by the drums, which are more obviously programmed here than they were on The Codex Necro. The instrument's computerized nature gives for a cold, machine-like aspect of the music, and while samples aren't used as much here as they were on the last record, they do appear infrequently in all their tortured howling wonderfulness.
Returning to the roles they took on the last album are Mick "Irrumator" Kenney and Dave "V.I.T.R.I.O.L." Hunt. Both are just as good in their respective musical creation duties on this effort as they were on the previous release, with Irrumator performing and programming with flawless accuracy and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. turning in another terrifying vocal performance. They are not alone this time, though, as they are joined by black metal guitarist supreme Set Teitan on "How the Angels Fly In" & "Genesis of the Antichrist" and Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar on "Atavism". Both turn in great performances, with Attila's howling and moaning on "Atavism" being a particular highlight of the EP. Irrumator's production style for When Fire Rains... has changed from the dirty cacophony of The Codex Necro, with this outing being cleaner and a bit more polished, which does quite fit the general industrial tone of the record. It's still loud and maddening, though, with a wall of sound that is ear piercing but not too loud as to be brickwalled a la many other modern releases (thanks loudness war, you annoying reminder that metal album production 20 years ago was so much better). Some may prefer the last record's filthier sound, and others this one's polish, although I think both work excellently for the individual styles of each release.
Overall, When Fire Rains... is a great transition piece between The Codex Necro and Domine Non Es Dignus, evolving from the primitive yet insane black metal of the debut, maintaining a personality of its own, and setting up the sophomore release with the gusto of any other era-bridging EP. While I do honestly wish it was a bit longer as I usually do with most good EPs (hi, Vempire), for the 27 minutes of what we have been given with When Fire Rains... it is a fairly awesome listen and deserves just as much recognition for its songs and style as the main Anaal Nathrakh records do. Anaal Nathrakh's future shone with the intensity of a supernova, and just like with their debut record, this EP proved that they were quickly becoming the masters of metal mania.
Ahhh the beast has returned! And a grand return it is. Another bone crunching, neck splitting, hate filled release from Anaal Nathrakh. It must have been intimidating to try and return to the studio after releasing such an explosive debut such as The Codex Necro and the fact that they were being praised by black metal fans worldwide for their innovative new sound. However Nathrakh did it with the EP When Fire Rains Down From The Sky, Mankind Will Reap As It Has Sown. With that being said it is very respectable of the band that even though they stayed completely true to their defined sound they still left room for improvement and evolution. This album seems to be more structured than the wall of blasting chaotic death noises that made up The Codex Necro.
The Album opens exactly how it should, with an explosion of all instruments carrying on for a series high deathly shrieks from V.I.T.R.I.O.L. Yes, the opener, Cataclysmic Nihilism, is definitely one of the strongest of these six tracks. The next standout would have to be Never Fucking Again. This monstrosity features the most aggressive and ear splitting vocals that are present on this album. The following track, Atavism, features all vocals by the legendary Atilla Csihar who is no disapointment here. The final track to this EP of mass destruction is also the title track. This is yet another massive highlight as it is heavy and aggressive to begin with but then what?! The chorus has clean vocals?! This is a new aspect to Nathrakh but not a bad one at all. Clean vocals are also present on their two later full length CDs.
All in all this is one of the strongest Eps I have come across. It picks up where the debut left off but continues to evolve at the same time. If you are new to this band and are looking for some ferocious and devastating black metal that will stay in your CD player for weeks, look no further. If you are already familiar with Nathrakh then add this one to your collection now!
So what do you do when you have already released one of the most extreme and innovative Black Metal albums of all time and are being hailed as the future sound of the genre? Evidently the only logical progression for Anaal Nathrakh, after the release of their stunning debut “The Codex Necro”, seemed to be to push the boundary that little bit further and continue to tread the path of spearheading the new wave of the genre. And so, they returned with this six track EP of total necrotic goodness.
Boasting guest appearances from both Attila Csihar and Seth Teitan 131 of Italian Black Metal band Aborym on vocals and lead guitars respectively, “When Fire Rains Down From The Sky, Mankind Will Reap As It Has Sown” certainly maintains the raw and bleak atmosphere created by the debut album but is able to build on it somewhat with a cleaner production, more defined song structures and added experimentation throughout. Again choosing to utilise a drum machine rather than live drums, Irrumator makes use of a mixture of drum patterns, some actually sounding particularly disjointed within the context of the genre. For example, in opener “Cataclysmic Nihilism” it initially seems as though every instrument is playing something different, yet the chaotic nature of the track quickly becomes apparent and such an incoherent rhythm becomes entirely fitting. The guitar sound is once again absolutely crushing but still manages to sound unlike that of the previous album, again illustrating the band’s aspiration to progress and develop as serious leaders rather than follow a lacklustre course of repetition.
Furthermore, V.I.T.R.I.O.L. employs more variety to his already renowned vocal abilities, with plenty of guttural screaming combined this time with some truly ear shattering high pitched shrieks, which again help to add to the flow of new and unique ideas that surge through this EP. Rather surprisingly, the track that Attila performs on, “Atavism”, is probably the weakest of all the six tracks present. The vocal performance is in fact nothing short of outstanding but the song simply does not do justice to his vocal talents, with the unfortunate tendency of sounding perhaps a little prolonged and imitative. However, tracks such as “How The Angels Fly In (We Can Never Be Forgiven)” and “Genesis Of The Antichrist” show a band that are simply going from strength to strength and remain unafraid to experiment beyond the restricted norm. With only their second release, Anaal Nathrakh have proven that they are near reaching distance of the Black Metal throne and should rightly have left their more uninspired contemporaries at a loss.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk